I have a confession to make. As I was watching Dog Day Afternoon for this review, I realized my DVD copy was scratched and it would not play the last half of the movie. But luckily, I have seen this movie before and I am fortunate enough to remember how the movie ended. Both times I watched the film, I enjoyed it very much. Given the talent behind and in front of the camera, that comes to me as no surprise. Sidney Lumet is a very talented director who directed incredible films such as 12 Angry Men and Serpico. Lumet reunites with his Serpico star Al Pacino to create a very fine portrayal of a real-life story about a Brooklyn bank robbery. The film is more subtle and quiet when compared to other Lumet films, but the film has an unexpected lighter tone. The film has some funny lines and I was surprised how much I laughed given the subject matter, but then I realized Lumet was not trying to make a serious film. The thematic issue of gay marriage gave the movie a political edge which also surprised me. I was expecting a straightforward movie about a bank robbery, but I got something more in-depth. There is motivation behind what the characters do and that caused me to sympathize with them, despite robbing a bank and holding people hostage. You may have figured by now, but I really enjoyed this film very much.
Believe it or not, but this story is based off real events which occurred at the Chase Manhattan Bank in Brooklyn, New York in 1972. The bank was held up by this gay man named Sonny (Al Pacino) and his dim-witted crime partner Sal (John Cazale) in order to get money to pay for Sonny’s partner sex change operation. The manager and tellers agree to cooperate with Sonny, but things go south when Sonny realizes there is not anything to steal because the money has been packed up for the day. When Sonny gets in contact with Police Captain Moretti (Charles Durning), he gets nervous when he realizes the entire bank is surrounded by cops. Now he must negotiate a way to get what he wants without compromising the safety of everyone in the bank.
Al Pacino is one of my favorite actors of all-time. He commits to every single role of his, even if the movie stinks. Obviously, this is not a stinker but it is impressive to see Pacino so committed to this role. I loved his performances in the two Godfather movies and Serpico. So it comes to no surprise I am impressed with this performance. This time around he brings an edge of comedy to his performance and it works spectacularly. The scene where he is being live broadcasted and he skips around in happiness telling people he’s a star, that was a wonderful but funny scene. John Cazale does a fine job as Sal. I felt Sal’s character goes hand-in-hand with John’s character in The Godfather, but regardless it was still a fine performance. Charles Durning plays it tough as the NYPD captain as he should because it easily fits his persona. Finally, Chris Sarandon as Sonny’s lover Leon does a fine job in his small role-a role that got him nominated for an Oscar.
I thought it was interesting about the political angle given to this movie. Gay marriage would not be a major political issues until many years after the release of this film, but it was interesting to see the viewpoint of the movie given how gay marriage was frowned upon during this era. The movie played the sympathy cards for Sonny and Leon and it gave a motivation for Sonny’s actions. The movie does not revile Sonny, but instead it makes him a deeply-flawed character.
Overall, Dog Day Afternoon is a excellent movie. It has committed performances by everyone, especially by Pacino. Sadly, Pacino still did not receive an Oscar up to this point despite being nominated for every movie he was in until 1975 including this one. Sidney Lumet continues to bring his style into all of his films. I love Lumet because like auteurs like Scorsese and Allen, many of his films are about New York. Each individual brings something to their films about the great city of New York and they make these films even more interesting to watch. I like the way Lumet turned the film from just an ordinary crime film to a film that is intelligent, creative, and still fun to watch. This is another impressive film on the resume for Sidney Lumet and Al Pacino.
My Grade: A